Album Listening Club – Gaucho discussion post

Gaucho In Action
“Gaucho In Action” by Vera & Jean-Christophe

Ok, maybe not that kind of Gaucho.

Steely Dan is a band that consists of the core songwriting team of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who met at Bard College in the late 60’s. (Fun fact: Chevy Chase was the drummer in one of their bands.) While they tried their hand at songwriting, they eventually became a band in their own right, naming themselves after a steam-powered strap-on dildo from William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.

They started with another vocalist (David Palmer), but Donald Fagen eventually took over vocals full-time.

Gaucho is their 7th album, released in 1980 after 2 years of studio work. It was critically acclaimed and very popular. Despite this, the band broke up the next year. The band would reunite for tours in the 90’s, and eventually released more records in the 2000s.

Chat it up, Album Clubbers!!


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August Sreply
September 21, 2014 at 10:52 pm

I forgot how good SD are and how some of these songs are so instantly recognizable from the major radio play they received. Babylon Sisters, Hey Nineteen and Time Out Of Mind are all great songs that I immediately thought 'oh yea, I remember this one'. However I hadn't heard the entire album so it's good to hear it in it's entirety. It's a very accessible album that brought back many good memories of my college days. The entire album is just basic pop rock fused with jazz influences but it's quite well done and enjoyable.

Donald Fagen has such a unique vocal delivery that can't be mistaken. I don't think I've heard any of their material with Palmer doing lead vocals. I'm going to need to check out their early work. I had no idea they had so many albums out.

I actually bought the vinyl soundtrack to the movie FM that they did 3 songs on in '78. Loved the film & the ST and mainly bought it for SD's song 'FM' (but the rest of it is quite good too). I never did buy a full album of SD's. I guess there were just so many other bands I liked more that I needed their albums.  Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

Tony C.reply
September 22, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Gaucho was a contentious album for the band, with label troubles, legal issues, personal issues, etc. It took almost 3 years to finally get released. It was hugely successful, so I guess you could say it was worth the wait. “Hey Nineteen” is immediately recognizable as a huge hit off the album, and a “lite rock” radio staple ever since. “Time Out of Mind” is another instantly recognizable classic.

The entire album is very listenable, but I can’t help going back to Aja or Pretzel Logic as my favorite Steely Dan albums. (It was the album that preceded Gaucho, released in ’77.) Still, Gaucho is a solid album with very accessible songs…great music to listen to while working.

September 23, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Detachment, good and bad, seems to be the album's main theme. Gaucho shows the First World as a decadent drive-in peopled by users, preposterous losers and those for whom cocaine is God's way of telling them their wallets are too big—this vision being a manifest offence against the poverty of the Third World (Mexico and all points south of the border) . The success of their previous album, Aja allows them, for the first time, to indulge. In earlier years, recording costs had eaten up their profits. When they did, it was hard not to spend a little, then a little more, on the Cuervo gold and fine Colombian.

September 23, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Boy that came out pompous

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
September 23, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Are you kidding? That was GREAT!! More like that, please. 🙂

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
September 30, 2014 at 4:58 am

I was amused when Gaucho was chosen as an album for the club to listen to, mostly because I've never been a huge fan of Steely Dan. In my mind I associate the music with the sleazy side of the 70's. Where the hated disco has become fun, funky party tunes, Steely Dan has aged into the old guy leering at girls in the high school parking lot. Which, hey, look! That sounds like the lyrics to "Hey Nineteen"! 🙂

Being that I'm also in the "I don't know a lot about jazz but I know what I like" camp, there's not much for me here either. It sounds like proto-Kenny G lite jazz. All the songs are slow to mid-tempo, and the lyrics aren't reaching out to grab me. I will give Steely Dan props in one area, though – Being able to croon about tequila and cocaine (The Cuervo Gold/The fine Colombian) in a way that makes the combination sound pleasant – that's some talent.

There are some Steely Dan songs I'm ok with – "Hey Nineteen", "Bodhisattva," and not least of all "Peg" for being sampled in De La Soul's "Eye Know." But by and large, they've passed me by. I'm sure there is a lot to appreciate in the sound quality of the recordings and perhaps some of the wordplay, but I don't think I'll ever get past the milquetoast warble of Donald Fagen and their smooth-jazz MOR pap tunes.

Alan Ralphreply
October 5, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Steely Dan are on the list of bands that I probably heard a *lot* of on the radio, as a kid growing up in the 70s, but didn't register much at the time apart from those hits that got into the charts. Thanks to Spotify, I'm now able to go back and explore the back-catalogues and reconnect some of the dots.

I enjoyed "Gaucho", and recognised the Steely Dan sound that I recall from my youth. With that said, though, I'm putting this to one side and diving back to listen to some of their earlier albums. Already struck gold with "Can't Buy A Thrill" – remember several of those tracks when they were in the charts. 🙂

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
October 5, 2014 at 7:20 pm

I remember them too, Alan, but with this music it sounds more like a record company exec doing someone a favor or making them a passion project. Where the Talking Heads record was different music from what was on the charts, Steely Dan was on the charts and – to my ears – I have no idea why. 🙂

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
October 5, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Interesting that back then, 3 years was a long time. Now, "big" or successful bands routinely take 3-4 years between album releases. Even small bands it seems – who is cranking out an album every year or two years lately?

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
October 5, 2014 at 7:27 pm

I remember the movie FM but don't recall if I've ever seen it. That soundtrack is sweet, though! Lots of really great songs from that time. (Except, you know, the Steely Dan songs 😉

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